Sex Education

Over at The Other Side of Sixty  Wisewebwoman has an interesting piece about Sex and Irish Girls.

“Girl people in my time were sent out into the world with absolutely no knowledge of sex. None.”

We are the same generation, but I grew up in Dublin, the capital city of Ireland. WWW, was reared in rural Cork, down on the south coast of Ireland. My experience was slightly different to hers.

In fifth year (16-17 years of age), we had a new teacher for RE & Irish, she was a nun. A total contrast to all the other nuns. She forgot all about:

Miracles, parables and prophets.
Daily prayers for purity.
‘Impure’ thoughts.
Keeping our knees covered. 😆 a couple of years before The mid-1960s – when Mary Quant created the micro-mini.
The occasions of sin – There were more of them than beads on a rosary!
Being able to slide a sheet of paper between our dancing partner and ourselves.
Not leading young men on!!!! Holy Mother of Merciful Maisie. I grew up in a houseful of men and the only thing you could lead any of them on with, was a table full of hot food!

I could go on…… and on…….!

Our 30 minute RE class for five mornings a week and the Irish classes for the week, became sex education classes. She had a BOOK.

One copy of a so called sex education book, covered in a double layer of heavy brown paper and each student in turn, was given THE BOOK to take home for a few days to read. I do not recall the title, a double layer of heavy brown paper made more of an impression on me!

Yes. There were diagrams, but so do books on car maintenance. It could have been our ‘All in the Cooking’ with lists of ingredients, or Home Economics Hygiene book (which had a chapter with pixtures that the Home Economics teacher (another nun) blushed at and skipped over every time!).

When my turn came, I brought the book home and handed it to mammy. What did she say?

“You read it first, love, then give it to me to read.”

I did.

When she gave it back to me, mammy asked if I had any questions. I didn’t.

Books like the one covered in a double layer of heavy brown paper, and ‘All in the Cooking’, talk the mechanics of the topic, not a mention of touch, feel, smell, taste or emotion. I learned all that at my mother’s side about cooking AND relationships. I learned from my four brothers: I saw them go through puberty,  from pimply chins and knobbly knees to hogging the bathroom even longer than I did! I learned what they thought about girls: the traits they liked, respected, and the dreaded ‘man eaters’ who would do anything for a free meal. I saw women like them in my working years too. At one stage I thought I understood more about how male minds worked, than my female ‘sisters’ of the world.

My brothers and their friends showed great respect for me. Yes, they teased me endlessly, but they never over stepped the mark or put me in danger. When we were out, if any of them saw me in danger or if a stranger was misbehaving towards me, they would step in and get them to back off. I treated them all like brothers and that is how I treated all the men I met and worked with, over the years.

20 thoughts on “Sex Education

  1. Darragh

    Grannymar, I can kind of beat that. When I turned 12 my father very sheepishly came into my room just after I had gone to bed and read a page from a sex education book. He then handed me the book and no more was said about it. I should of course tell anyone else who’s reading this that I’m completely blind so a print book on sex education is about as useful as a glass hammer. For years I had no choice but to nod and smile with embarrassment when conversations in any way relating to sex came up as I hadn’t a clue what was going on. Although I’m only 32 I spent 13 years in an all boys boarding school where the concept of sex education was completely unheard of. I must ask him some day what the hell he was thinking of giving me a book on sex education that was completely in print and just walking away. However, I expect it was some kind of feer, unease and nervousness that has resulted in this being one of the few topics he finds it difficult to discuss. I’ll say one thing, this experience has made me go opposite the direction. I encourage open conversation. Otherwise how can we expect young people to approach it with any kind of responsibility, respect and fun.

    1. Grannymar Post author

      From my experience, sex education in many families was left to the mother. As you know, I had four brothers, two above and two below. My father actually had the ‘sex’ chat with my eldest brother, when finished, he passed the responsibility to him to tell the others, as and when he thought they were ready to hear it!

      Despite all the obstacles, you did well, have a beautiful wife and a clever little daughter, and some more exciting news for us!

    1. Grannymar Post author


      One of my young brothers at about eight came in from the garden to where Granny, Mammy and I were chatting and drinking tea. He just blurted out his question:

      “Do ladies have babies like cats have kittens?”

      Granny nearly fell off her chair trying not to explode with laughter, and mammy shooed my brother out of the room. This brother had gone into the shed at the bottom of the garden to get something and found a stray cat delivering her kittens!

  2. rummuser

    I don’t know if they have sex education now in India, but in my time and most certainly in my son’s there simply wasn’t any in any school. Our parents did not teach either. We just learnt on our own and do not seem to have missed out on anything important!

    1. Grannymar Post author

      In a way, perhaps we were better off. Nowadays, you cannot watch television programmes or adverts, see a movie or read a book without explicit sexual scenes or references. Young children see it as the norm and perhaps it is a contributory factor in all the sexual abuse and rape incidents we hear about today.

  3. Al

    Yes, my dad had “the talk” with me and explained how a woman’s body works. However, it would have been way more useful if he could have explained how a woman’s mind works. But of course, he didn’t have a clue either.

  4. wisewebwoman

    Hardly rural, GM, I was raised in the second largest city in Ireland 😀 you were very blessed with all the male protection afforded you and the enlightened nun. My experience was far, far different, alas.

    1. Grannymar Post author

      Sorry, I always thought you were outside the city. The lads were great and I suppose being in the middle of them helped. I was also like a little mammy to them, since I filled that role anytime she was ill. As for the nun, she was totally obsessed with the subject and the Irish and RE were out the window!

  5. rustylily

    A friend of mine explained the ‘mechanics’ to her young daughter. The daughter exclaimed, “Oh Mammy how could you do that for laughing!”

  6. nick

    I can’t for the life of me remember how I got my sex education, but it certainly wasn’t at (private) school, and it certainly wasn’t from my parents. It must have been from friends or from the media. I must have picked it all up pretty late, as I had no sexual experience whatever until I was 22.

    It’s good to know that sex is no longer such a taboo subject and children today are more likely to be told everything they need to know in the classroom rather than behind the bike sheds. But there are still some diehard adults who think sex education of any kind is the work of the devil and can only corrupt young minds. I suppose they’ll die off eventually.

    1. Grannymar Post author

      Nick, were you overdoing the birthday celebrations? 😉 I have cleared the other comments as requested.

      Perhaps the days of ‘bike sheds’ are no more and the lessons learned there have now moved indoors and become the task of the teachers. I preferred to learn at home rather from that nun in school.

  7. cedar51

    My Mother had some booklets with pictures – I am not sure I really took it in…but something must have made sense as I knew what did what…at the later stage in life.

    1. Grannymar Post author

      So long as you knew what to do at the right time, is what really counts. I know of two ladies who admitted they had no idea of what to expect or how they should behave.


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